Ambiguous band names can do more harm than good. For instance, if you do an online search for the group Girls, you are redirected to the popular HBO series as opposed to the band. A search for “Weekend” produces the result of a 2011 feature film, countless deals for “Cheap Weekend Getaways!”, as well as the Wikipedia page for the definition of the difference between “the workweek” and “the weekend,” which is apparently a difficult distinction to make. Then there’s also the possibility that you spell it as “Weeknd.” You have to do some serious digging to find the artist or their music. Luckily, the lack of creativity that Weekend put into naming their band doesn’t reflect the quality of their new album.
The group’s debut album Sports felt like a long lost child of Joy Division, finally making its way out of the late seventies and returning to the present. Released in 2009 on Slumberland (home of similarly nostalgia-soaked groups like Crystal Stilts, Spectrals, Pains Of Being Pure At Heart), Sports was a refreshing and raw addition to the somewhat staling state of noise-rock at the time. With Jinx, the band is moving away from their dirty, reverb-drenched sound, in favor of a cleaner but still bracing one. The name of the album was inspired by frontman Shaun Durkan’s father, whose stage name used to be “Jinks.” During the recording, the trio (now a four-piece) moved its endeavors out of the garage-rock mecca of San Francisco, into the ever-expanding, enigmatic music box that is Brooklyn.

The tone of Jinx starts out more ominous than its predecessor, then gradually lightens up towards the end. “Mirror,” the opening track, starts off with an ambient intro with bits of static floating in like a mist descending. That touch of synth is then followed by a rolling bass riff, bursting drums and a dreamy pop riff. Lines like “I feel sick sick, sick, sick in my heart” and “He only comes in the night” show Durkan is singing from a much darker place than before. The song ends with an echo of the word “sick,” as if Durkan is drifting off into his own mind and only emerged to express his internal distress.
That sense of unease is layered throughout the album by Durkan, whose vocals are much more pronounced on Jinx than on Sports. Some of the tracks have a borderline industrial nature to them. Songs like “July,” “Sirens,” and most notably “It’s Alright,” use a combination of pillowy synth, buzzing guitars and ambient textures to form an aggressive new wave meets post-punk sound. Durkan channels his inner Trent Reznor and Ian Curtis to give the album a wounded but angry edge.
As the record comes to an end, the darkness begins to lift and the later tracks have a pop dynamic to them. The band seems to let go and release it all on the penultimate track, “Scream Queen,” as Durkan repeats “Letting go again/Moving on again”, before moving into the last track, the propulsive and dreamy “Just Drive.” It’s that ability to toggle between the doom and gloom of post-punk and the restless energy of fuzz-pop that makes Jinx such a gripping, vital listen. Durkan and the rest of the band bring the same level of technical precision (and volume) on both the light and the dark tracks. Just make sure to turn it up loud—you know, for maximum hearing damage.